It's early autumn and as the days draw shorter, the countryside around me is turning a beautiful golden colour. Over the last few weeks I have been in search of a local commercial orchard in West Sussex to photograph. This year has seen a bumper apple crop across the UK and Europe and I wanted to take some editorial photographs of the workers harvesting the apples. Unfortunately, I have yet to find one. It seems many of them have closed down or diversified into 'pick your own' farms to make ends meet. A sad sign of the times I'm sure you will agree. During a recent shopping trip to my local supermarket I found that I could buy any type of apple I wanted, but none of them had been grown in Sussex! In fact, none had been grown in the UK at all. Instead I was faced with a selection of apples that had acquired more air miles than many people have travelled in their entire lives, crazy I know. Rant over, so anyway during my research of local orchards I found out about an Apple Day being held at the Slindon Estate and so decided to pop along and capture some photographs for my rural life photography project.
The event is a joint venture between The National Trust and Slindon Life ( more info about the National Trust at the Slindon Estate can be found here and the Slindon Village Life here) at which visitors can bring along any spare apples they have from their gardens to have them pressed and made into fresh apple juice or fermented into cider. The apples are collected, sorted, cut by volunteers and then taken over to a large mulching machine. Here the apples are loaded into the top of the mulcher and a large wheel is turned which mulches the apples . The faster you turn the wheel, the faster the machine works…..and the thirstier you get!
As I watched and took my photographs, I asked why the apples needed to be put through the machine twice. A friendly National Trust ranger explained "We need to mulch the apples twice as it increases the yield, you'll be amazed how much more juice we get" he replied with a smile. Now expertly mulched, the apple mixture is then taken over to ‘Big Bertha’, a traditional rack and cloth oak cider press, then spread and wrapped in hessian cloth. Once a few layers have been loaded onto the press, a large handle is turned, compressing the apple filled parcels and squeezing out all the lovely and very tasty juice.
I left the volunteers quenching their thirst with glasses full of fresh apple juice. And as a folk band serenaded me back to my car, I thought to myself how important traditions like this are to keep alive. It brings people together, helps reinforce a sense of community and puts all those spare apples to great use.
I hope you enjoy my photographs, prints can be purchased here and if you know of any commercial apple orchard farmers please let me know. That's it for now, so may your glass always be half full and next time you go shopping, remember to buy local.
Till next time, Scott the Photographer.
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